FAQs About College Visits

Flickr user Michael Hicks

College visits are a key part to the college search process. Being on campus, seeing the buildings, interacting with the professors, can give you a better feel and understanding for that experience than online research alone.

Here we’ve collected some of the most common questions about college visits, so you can be prepared for your own!

When is the best time to visit?

There are pros and cons to every visiting season. Some argue that summer is best, since you won’t have high school commitments, but then class won’t be in session. You could go during the academic year to see how the school functions normally, but then you might miss a day or two of your own classes.

In the end, it comes down to your own calendar and circumstances. If you’re looking at a school across the country, it may not be feasible to visit during the school year, after all.

Should I tour with a group, or on my own?

There are definite benefits to both. An individual tour will allow you one-on-one time with the guide, and personalize the tour to your own goals and expectations. They can show you areas of the campus dedicated to your potential field of study, or connect you with some of the professors you might study under.

Of course, the classic group setting is great too. You could meet potential classmates, and one of the families there might ask a question that you hadn’t thought about.

Can I speak to professors or other faculty?

Most colleges will have an option to meet with professors, coaches, or even department heads while you visit. You’ll have to arrange this ahead of time, and be conscientious of other peoples’ schedules. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely take it.

Can I sit in on a class?

Again, this is conditional on the college and the time of year you visit—but yes! And you should, if you can. Sitting in on a class gives you first-hand experience into what learning is like for this school and major.

Can I speak to current students?

The tour guide will almost always be a current student themselves, and is a fantastic resource for information about the college. However, it can be worthwhile to talk with other students who aren’t trying to recruit you.

Most college kids will be happy to speak about their school (as long as they aren’t rushing off to class). Feel free to flag someone down as ask them a few questions. They’re more likely to give you unbiased answers.

Should I arrange an over-night stay?

If you have the time, an over-night stay is a great way to check out what dorm-life will be like, as well as get a first-hand look at the facilities you’ll interact with freshman year. You’ll probably get a roommate for the night as well. It can be a fun test run.

Will I only learn about the highlights?

Many are concerned that a tour will only show them the highlights and best aspects of the college. Why would an official tour talk about the negatives and drawbacks, after all?

You should definitely take a self-guided tour before or after the official one, to familiarize yourself with the entirety of campus. This can be a great time to talk with other current students.

What if I can’t afford a visit?

Visits, unfortunately, are not free. In addition to sign-up fees, there’s also travel and lodging expenses. Luckily there are fee waivers you can qualify for, that cover all or partial cost for you.

If price is still an issue, you can check out online virtual tours—it’s not ideal, but is a good back up option if you can’t visit in person.

How many times should I visit a single college?

If you can, visit a potential college more than once. A second visit can help you narrow the list further, or give you a new perspective after visiting other schools. It’s also worthwhile to visit again after you’ve actually been accepted to that school, and things get “real.”

How many colleges on my list should I visit?

In a perfect world, you should visit each and every college on your shortlist. Of course, reality is far from perfect. One option is to do virtual tours for colleges, narrow your list, and visit the top three or four.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

Allison Wignall

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